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Amid criticism, Verily's CEO and Google's co-founder defend life science company

by Gail Kalinoski, Contributing Reporter | April 19, 2016
Business Affairs Health IT
Verily, formerly Google Life Sciences, has come under attack in recent weeks and both its CEO Andrew Conrad and Google co-founder Sergey Brin are defending the medical technology company – at least to some degree. And one of the bright spots that came out of the public dust-up is that Verily is making money.

Re/code, a technology publication, estimated that Verily’s sales were about $10 million in 2015. Verily makes money through partnerships with medical institutions and pharmaceutical companies, like its collaboration with Johnson & Johnson to develop better surgical robots.

While Brin didn’t go into any detail about Verily’s revenues, he denied that Alphabet’s companies, known as “Other Bets” weren’t profitable, according to Re/code, which reported Brin’s defense of Verily made during a recent meeting for Google employees. Part of Brin’s comments reportedly included the following statement: “It’s true that, you know, as a whole our Other Bets are not yet profitable, but some of them are, including Verily, on a cash basis and increasingly so. So we’re pretty excited about these efforts.”

Re/code notes Brin’s use of the words “cash basis” and writes that “probably means it’s not making profit on the normal basis, meaning when you take into account total sales minus total costs.” But it could suggest “they’re booking sales faster than they’re spending money, which is a positive sign.”

Brin was also quoted as saying it was “sad” to see former or soon-to-be former employees talking to the press, adding Verily’s attrition rate is “below Google and Alphabet’s as a whole.”

Verily is set up as a limited liability company and so very little is known about the inner workings of the unit. But a recent article in STAT, a medical publication produced by the Boston Globe, was highly critical of Verily and placed much of the blame squarely on Conrad, stating it was losing top talent because of Conrad’s “divisive and impulsive” leadership.

The STAT article said the three-year-old company “carefully manages its image” and employees found talking to the press could be fired. So not surprisingly, the publication reached out to numerous former employees and contractors. Many, including six current or former collaborators, asked not to be identified. STAT also noted it reviewed hundreds of pages of public record and documents written by or involving Conrad.

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